So, another time another army. Having done the Tau Empire, loyalist and traitor Astartes alike, it seemed time to give a stab at the Craftworld Eldar. Many of you know that I have a few issues in how the race is written and how often underutilized many of its elements are, along with being used as fodder. As such, this is an attempt to try something very different, focusing upon their longevity and planning far more than so much of their lore.
The reason this is being uploaded at this point is because, in all honesty, i'm torn on the concept behind this one. It seems to work internally with most lore, but some ideas might be skirting the edge of insanity. As such, any early opinions on this work in progress would be greatly appreciated, negative or otherwise.
Meaning: The last scream which burns in the heavens.
Current location: Galactic north-east
Main colours: Dark crimson, bright yellow, white.
Reputation: Isolationist, Distrusting
Motto: (Approximate primary Gothic translation) "Death need not be the end of hope."
It is a terrible fate to be the scions of a dead god. To watch their greatest triumphs fail, see their effigies burn and their realms consumed by a being of hungering night is a sight burned into their racial memory. Each reacts differently, shaping their cultures and the ways of their children for millennia to come. In some such a tragedy inspires fear, in others resentment or even rage, and the all-consuming desire to cling onto the ashes of a revenant empire. Yet in one it inspired rebirth, to cast away all that their ancestors had forged in favour of building an enduring dynasty among the forgotten worlds.
The few mariners who brave the dwindling stars of the galactic north speak of a voidborne relic from lost ages in hushed dread tones, knowing it only as an ill omen and by the celestial warriors which follow in its wake. To these mon-keigh it is known by many names: The Baleweaver, Chiron's Longship, the Talon of Thrakan; each fearing it as some god slaking its wrath upon mortal races. Yet none among them know its true nature, or the ambition which drives it onwards even as the galaxy slides ever further towards midnight.
Known to antiquity as Yin-Sarr, the craftworld was unique even among the nomadic trade-cities. Serving as a self-appointed pioneer and outpost of the Empire it would disappear into the galactic east for countless centuries at a time; its task was not to spread wealth among the heartland but uncover feudal species to exploit for their treasures. Documenting thousands cultures across the sea of constellations, it escaped annihilation only by sheer chance. Descending from the Webway to recharge its solar sails whilst returning to the Empire’s heartland, the craftworld was met with a convoy of eldar vessels light years from its borders. Ill-equipped for any long journey, its crewmen initially refused contact entirely, only relenting upon realised how little the craftworld's leaders knew of the Empire's decay. From these exiles they learned of a world gone mad. They spoke not of a people in their ascendance but a realm of decadence, populated only by degenerate murderers and savages. Enraged at the very suggestion of the depravity now found in the Empire the Yin-Sarrians were ready to slaughter the exiles, until they were proven all too true.
In a screaming cry echoed in the voices of trillions of eldar, Slaanesh tore its way into existence. The craftworld's leaders could only watch in mounting horror as its birth cries ripped open the fabric of reality itself, consuming the core worlds of their Empire. At the sight of such an act, they did as all surviving eldar would and turned tail, racing for the fringes of the galaxy itself. Spurning contact even with other survivors out of fear they might have borne the corrupting influence which had damned their species, Yin-Sarr went into seclusion, hiding among the fringe worlds. Throughout the next ten millennia it would remain there, seemingly dormant, retaining contact only with the cluster of Exodite worlds founded by the fleet they had encountered on that final day.
Gradually forgotten by history or ignored by the greater powers of the universe, Yin-Sarr slipped into legend and became little more than a half-remembered myth of an older age. This was exactly as its Farseers had wished. Their return to the Eastern Fringe had not been any mad flight of terror, but a calculated decision. Far from the bleeding Eye which had consumed their home, they began appearing again among the primitive alien societies of worlds charted for resources. Already seen by some as mythical entities or servants of their gods, the inhabitants of these planets were easily bent to their will, selecting those species they felt deserved to ascend and advance at a rapid pace. This was no act of compassion or charity however, but one of self-preservation.
Eldar numbers were growing fewer with every passing year. Gradually dwindling as they bore Asuryan's final gift, they simply could not afford to lose more of their kind in war. So, as the Old Ones did before them, Yin-Sarr began to shape primative species into their armies. Some worlds were intentionally seeded with the remnants of defeated WAAAGHs!, to ensure they would grow strong with conflict. Others were besieged by disasters, civil wars or strife to harden them against a future of eternal war, each guided by the subtle manipulations of Yin-Sarr's Seers. Yet for every one allowed through to improve their skills at war, the craftworld intervened to protect them from dozens they were unprepared for. Explorator fleets sent to these planets disappeared into the Warp, druchii raiders were silently cut down even as they fell upon seemingly defenceless primitives, and Rogue Traders mysteriously found themselves side-tracked to new destinations. Even going so far as to destroy the fledgling Jagged Revenants chapter when they threatened a protectorate race, the craftworld savagely defended its interests.
While many would die out across the millennia, to failed trials as much as outside threats, the few who remained had been molded by ten thousand years of atrocities and invasions. Each was a warrior race, loyal only to the craftworld and bore a relentlessness which was only matched by their brutality. The perfect living weapons to fight in the name of a Yin-Sarrian Empire. Tested against isolated ork worlds, Imperial outposts and even slumbering Necron tomb complexes, as M42 dawned Yin-Sarr gathered its allies for battle. With the Imperium crumbling, now was the time to ensure eldar dominion across the galaxy once more...
Culture And Traditions:
For many of the eldar on Yin-Sarr, tradition is something to be despised as much as it is revered. While they view kin obsessed with their lost empire and deities with disdain, clinging to the ghosts of a dead regime, many societal traditions are regarded as sacrosanct. Maintaining face in front of another House or rival group is something crucial to their kind, and breaking with etiquette even among social greetings is considered a high offense. This is perhaps at least in part thanks to what has further cemented a rift between themselves and the rest of their species, as has their treatment of their distant cousins.
The exact importance and nature of certain traditions wildly varies between each House, with each retaining entirely different standards of etiquette. While certainly loyal to a core system and series of laws, how it is interpenetrated can result in seemingly contradictory functions. Many mistake this for a weakness at first, as it creates continual friction among their people, but such individuals often do not fully understand the intention of such a society. Rather than ensuring the certainty of internal war, they encourage constant vigilance for the slightest weakness and the ability to adapt to a hundred different personal codes. Yet most importantly, it trains each eldar performs their role without fault. With each House's power relying upon maintaining status, reputation, and cultural understanding of others, many are trained from birth to retain the traits they need to seek out failings and control their serf races. Furthermore, for as often as they indirectly combat one another, the looming threat beyond their borders is what fully unites them, with some Houses existing purely to serve in that role. Many even go so far as to act as a proxy foe in times of peace, testing the defences of the craftworld and probing its weaknesses to ensure no House ever allows its guard to fall.
While its culture encourages social conflict, order is maintained by devotion to the craftworld as a whole and obedience to their superiors. Discussions and councils among their kind are rare indeed, and conflicts of opinion or dissatisfaction are settled purely by societal rank. In the few cases that some are regarded as being on equal standing on their Path, it is settled by a rapid display of skill, with the loser falling in line without question. Despite this ordered nature, Yin-Sarr's populace favour changing Paths at an astounding rate. Understanding of a Path is valued far higher than mastering it in a martial or skill based sense; resulting in many breaking off and following another way of life so that they might be given time to contemplate their discoveries. Unconventional to say the least, this has led to others returning to certain Paths later in their life rather than leaving them entirely as would be encouraged on the likes of Alaitoc or Iyanden.
Perhaps the strangest part of Yin-Sarr's nature and its culture is its attitude towards xenos races, and the future of the eldar. The craftworld is, as all are, determined to survive no matter the cost to others. On the edge of oblivion, they would see the galaxy reduced to ash so long as it ensured the final end of the Primordial Annihilator and the ascendance of a new Eldar Empire. However, as the millennia has worn on, many have begun to question if this is even truly viable. With so many ruined craftworlds now drifting among the stars, with their numbers dwindling with each passing day, any chance of true victory appears increasingly unlikely. This has seeded a grim fatalistic determination among outlying members their kind, who now seek to endure by any meaning or means they can conceive.
Should the Ynnead gambit fail, should they prove to be unable to defeat Slaanesh and the last of the eldar fall, their eternal war will have been a pointless endeavor. It would be a footnote following the Fall at best, and little more than the thrashing last moments of a dying beast. As such, their serf species serve more than just as fodder. Many, through both subtle and obvious means, have had their cultures altered to match the ways of the eldar. Through a baseline copy of the Path system and various innate teachings, they have been trained to limit the affects of Chaos and even taught to suppress psykers from an early age. Certain cruder replicates of eldar values even exist among these species, reflecting the craftworld's societal hierarchy. While little more than a shadow of the complex meanings and ideals the eldar hold dear, some Farseers hope that from this seed these aliens might evolve to become their successor should they dwindle to nothingness.
The few who have been permitted access to Yin-Sarr's inner domains have described a spartan, almost joyless world. Whereas most craftworlds are sanctuaries, refuges and relics containing the remnants of their past society, these eldar have all but abandoned their prior identity. No statues are made in worship to their race's pantheon, few remaining banners still depict the eldar gods at all, and the very act of speaking about the Empire is a taboo at best. While the exact reason is lost to the ages, it has been suspected that this may have been the result of some mad act of shame;' with their ancestors destroying symbols of the flawed realm they once venerated so not to repeat any of their mistakes. Only a scant few remnants such as the Shrine of the Avatar remain, and none truly know how many relics may have been lost amid this alleged purge.
The only link to Yin-Sarr's past which has remained truly untouched, even encouraged to flourish, are the craftworld's gardens. Stretching for kilometers at a time, these grounds are home to species once unique to the maiden worlds, many of which are now all but extinct. Considered almost sacred they have even been allowed to run wild and grow unchecked, bereft of the control found elsewhere. These grounds are often used as meeting places between the craftworld's Farseers and diplomats from their primitive serf races. Assisting in making their leaders more malleable to their will, they serve to unsettle the primitives by gathering them in locations familiar to their kind, yet leaving the sight of vast alien citadels dominating the skies overhead. It is also among these jungles that many of their Aspect Warrior shrines can be found, particularly those of the Striking Scorpion, who favour the dense and enclosed fauna.
The true cities of the craftworld dominate the upper tiers over the gardens. Linked by vast complex walkways and bridge networks, these core bastions are closer in some respects to Imperial Hive Cities than others of their kind. Total privacy is considered a lie here, and many buildings are openly planned with rooms separated less by walls than simple aesthetic choices. This is in stark contrast to the streets beyond, many of which are so narrow it is difficult for two eldar to walk abreast. This is in part a reflection of the ordered nature of their society, and the greater level of trust shown to the closest of their kin, but also a defensive choice. These streets and bridges make the massed offensive formations favoured by the Imperium's armies or Ork WAAAGHs! impossible, forcing them to advance piecemeal into eldar territory. At the same time the interior layout of many buildings have been constructed to serve as easy staging areas during defensive actions, or even bottlenecks to divert an army away from vital areas of the city-ship.
As the craftworld itself has evolved over the millennia, it has gradually transformed to reflect the guarded mentality of its population. While its exterior hull still bares signs of extravagance and a far more open nature, most have long since slipped away. The massive crystal domes which once dotted its surface have long since been covered by massive slabs of wraithbone, leaving only a scant handful still open to space. Furthermore, the solar sails which one adored its dorsal have gradually been drawn back, pushed to its aft as the craftworld's fore expanded into a protective armored bulk. When viewed from the void beyond, Yin-Sarr now resembles a squat arrow-headed bastion of wraithbone.
Military Doctrine & Formations:
In spite of their militant nature, Yin-Sarr's warhost is often seen as a last resort. Deployed only when all options have been exhausted, they are treated as the craftworld's ultimate sanction and tasked with utterly annihilating a foe. While some mistake this at first as a sign of weakness, it is more a reflection upon their thought process and core ideology. Why risk others knowing of their existence and the lives of so many warriors, when fate itself can be reshaped in their favour?
Examining the strands of fate, Farseers pick out and alter careful events at a whim, sometimes offering a minor nudge to alter future events or altering the social consciousness of a population. Their favoured tactic is societal manipulation, telepathically implanting concepts or widespread ideas which alter the nature of a people. While this process is undeniably slow, often taking centuries at a time to bear fruition, its effectiveness cannot be denied. Mon'keigh factions can be easily played against one another by this means, and more than once the very racial memory of certain xenos raiders have been altered until they view the eldar as unearthly reapers of souls. Most importantly, however, it has also allowed the craftworld to rapidly expand their influence, making primitive xenos races more accepting of their rule. By this way of war, many battles have been won without their foes ever witnessing an eldar upon the field of battle.
Yet, when battle itself it is unavoidable, Yin-Sarr's first response is always its navy. Boasting an astounding armada of capital ships despite the craftworld's limited resources, they are capable of quickly surrounding and annihilated enemy ships in wave upon wave of fast-moving voidcraft. Such conflicts are often over within mere hours of sighting the enemy, but a more favoured tactic is utilising the cruisers of their serf species. While certainly crude by comparison, they have benefited from the guidance of eldar shipmasters and reflect the eldar way of war. Many a Rogue Trader has underestimated the speed at which these craft can strike, and are often only aware of any eldar presence once Aspect Warriors have boarded their vessel.
The ability to disguise eldar involvement in war is not merely limited to their navy, and the warhost itself is remarkably bereft of eldar. The backbone of any assault often consists almost entirely of xenos serf warriors, each trained to take the place of Guardian squads or more highly valued Wraithguard. Unwilling to risk either civillians or their honoured dead in war, Yin-Sarr instead deploys these warriors as front-line fighters. At a fundamental level, each warrior is individually outfitted and equipped to cover as many roles as possible, from close engagements to anti-armour duty. This allows them to overcome their inherent sluggishness when compared with eldar warriors, and to quickly adapt to the flow of battle. Through this, they can separate units from a main enemy force, isolating them before Aspect Warriors move in to deliver the killing blow.
However, Guardians are not the only unit absent from the warhost. Thanks to their isolationist policies no citizen is permitted to walk the Path of the Outcast and truly explore the galaxy, robbing Yin-Sar of Rangers to call upon in times of war. Instead, the few who break away often join the Exodite clans allied with the craftworld, sometimes going so far as to permanently settle among them. This has allowed them to foster closer diplomatic ties, and as a result Dragon Knights have become a common sight among eldar expeditions. While lacking the innate speed and firepower of a jetbike, their value as scouts is immeasurable, as is the speed at which they adapt to even the harshest Death Worlds. Advancing far ahead of the warhost, many worlds have fallen thanks to these warriors rapidly silencing artillery positions and scouts; some even then annihilating rearguard position of an amassed enemy force once the battle is joined. In return for these services the Exodites themselves benefit from superior equipment, and many clans even retain archaic variants of Wraithknights to assist in the defence of their lands.
Foreign Association and Affairs:
Although it has limited itself to patrolling its protectorate worlds, Yin-Sarr nevertheless retains a close watch on galactic events. Everything from the rise of the Red Corsairs to the slow death of the Astronomican heralds a new beginning for the universe, and it is one the craftworld can ill afford to ignore. As such, while the craftworld's power is supposedly limited to a handful of systems, for past millennia it has slowly been working its agents into a number of prominent Imperial worlds among the Eastern rim. From traders to bureaucrats, many serve as unwitting spies for the eldar, having been abducted and then mentally remapped by their Farseers. In some cases these acts are subtle, opening a window into the mind of the mon'keigh so his every act and sight might be broadcast back to the craftworld. In others, entire "mask" personalities are woven into their neural pathways, taking control when required and acting in their service.
Such spies often find their way into positions of power, or serve as the linchpin for adjoining worlds among the Imperium. Given the apparent incompetence or poor decisions made under their leadership, these figures have been gradually weakening the sectors world by world, as much to prevent expansion as to slowly inspire a hatred for the Terran government. The moment a pro-Imperial power becomes a true threat, the eldar agents can incite chaos, anarchy or infighting to ensure that these worlds remain a backwater slum, each barely able to support themselves.
When the most direct intervention and control is not possible, the Yin-Sarrians seek to ensure an optimal future comes into play. The right man in the right place can so often mean all the difference on a world, and it is not unheard of for the craftworld to shape an entire alien life to their will. At the very least, the birth, upbringing, career and eventual defection of Archmagos Thrachan to the Tau Empire has been confirmed; an act which would give the fledgling aliens an edge against a multitude of future druchii raids.
Even when confronted by their own kind, Yin-Sarr remains closed off and shuns contact with outsiders. Among the Craftworld Eldar only Biel-Tan is regarded with any measure of respect, thanks largely to their relationship with the Exodites. Meanwhile, all others are treated as potentially corrupted by Chaos or viewed with disdain for venerating their dead gods. This makes contact difficult at the best of times, and is hardly helped by Yin-Sarr's language barrier. While they retain an older dialect of the eldar language, their lexicon seems to have directly altered the meaning of, and even removed, many words linked to the pantheon entirely. This has resulted in stilted and oddly clipped inner language, with some terms even replaced by those normally exclusive to the Exodites.
Despite this often rocky relationship, Yin-Sarr rarely displays true hostility towards any craftworld, merely guarded refusal to accept any direct contact with their kind. They have nevertheless been known to assist other forces, returning lost spirit stones to their homes and even diverting impending cataclysms from their borders. While they might not support their actions, they are merely viewed as misguided and untrustworthy rather than deserving of true hatred. In stark contrast to this, the druchii and their corsair brethren are regarded with absolute contempt, representing the worst their race is capable of. Seeing them as little more than remnants of a power which should have been annihilated millennia ago, the craftworld has actively hunted fleets to extinction and Kabalite forces are destroyed on sight.
On many occasions, Yin-Sarr has laid traps for their degenerate kin, using their serf races as bait. These are intended not to merely defeat their foes, but subject them to utter humiliation before annihilating them completely. Some have been found in the wake of a battle, left naked and chained in place for the predators of a Death World to find, while others have been stripped of all feeling, sight and taste before being slowly burned alive. Even those who retreat are relentlessly hounded by the Yin-Sarr warhost, and their forces have been seen pursuing Kabalite raiding parties back into the Webway, waging war within its corridors.
The only value the Autarchs see in these splintered factions is their strength of arms. This refers not to the warriors themselves but their vessels and machines of war, as many corsair kingdoms retain relics not seen since the Fall. As such, upon finding the home of a pirate prince, Yin-Sarr often deploys its forces en-mass to liberate these assets. Centuries of planning can be put into these operations, even going so far as to trigger entire wars among lesser races to draw them out of hiding or stretch their forces too thin. This would go some way to explain the explosive growth of the Yin-Sarrian fleet, and the mysteriously large number of Haven Spire fortresses which now stand guard over allied Exodite worlds.